Archive for July, 2011

Omega 3 fats affect your brain function, your memory and learning ability in children

There is an ever increasing body of evidence linking the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA with improvements in human brain function, improvements in memory, learning abilities and disabilities as well as a range of psychiatric and other mental conditions.

What you eat, it seems from the research, affects not just your general health but your brain and mental health and learning ability as well.

Not only that but there is a growing body of evidence that one of the most important things that young children can do to improve their ability to learn, to concentrate and to remember is to increase their intake of the Omega 3 fatty acids.

And today we bring you two fascinating videos from the BBC in the UK about Omega 3 and brain function, and improving the learning abilities of children. Here’s the 2 videos, though make sure you keep reading below for a more thorough explanation.

(Find out more about Omega 3 supplements)

Your brain performs a massive range of functions. It runs your body, it thinks, it learns, it remembers, and it performs a massive range of other functions. However some people think, learn and remember better than others. Some people are smarter than others.

Some people have problems with memory loss, ADHD, have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Some people suffer from depression, some suffer from bipolar disorder, and much much more.

There really is “Brain Food”.

As science delves into the workings of the human brain there is a gradual realisation that what you eat has a very significant impact on most if not all of these brain functions, and much more. The old adage about “brain foods” is spot on.

The research is showing that some specific nutrients, or the lack thereof, may well have a huge impact on how well your brain works. Those nutrients are the Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

The human brain works differently to the brain of all other animals. Our brains have developed over thousands of years to the point where our mental abilities have enabled human beings to rule the planet. And science is now suspecting that the Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and DHA in particular, has had a large role to play in that.

DHA, (docosahexaenoic acid) is found primarily in seafood and particularly in oily fish. Research on the bones of Neanderthals has found that, because their diet consisted primarily of red meat, that they had very little DHA intake. However research on the bones of early humans has shown that they had a significant intake of seafood in their diet, thereby getting an increased supply of DHA, and scientists hypothesise that this was the point where the brain power of human beings began to develop.

DHA helps your brain to communicate

Roughly 60 percent of your brain is made up of fat. The largest percentage of that fat is DHA. And in particular there is a layer of DHA in and between the cells which allow the brain’s communication.

Signals in the brain must pass from cell to cell. DHA is found between the membranes of the cells and is extremely important to the transmission of signals in the brain. Too little DHA can inhibit the transmission of brain signals.

Once science realized the importance of DHA in brain function the obvious conclusion was that people deficient in their intake of DHA may well have some signs of decreased brain function, and research is gradually demonstrating that.

And enough DHA in the diet is essential to optimum mental development in children

Omega 3 and childrenIt is now becoming clearer that an adequate supply of DHA in the diet is essential to proper brain development in children, and that an inadequate supply may well contribute to learning difficulties in children such as ADD and ADHD. If you’ve not watched our videos (above) then we urge you to do so, as they very effectively demonstrate this very point.

There is now compelling evidence that an inadequate supply of DHA in the diet may contribute to a whole range of mental conditions including memory loss or generally poor memory, declining mental function and cognitive ability as well as a range of mental conditions, particularly with ageing, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general.

And there is also compelling evidence that increasing the intake of DHA may well also help improve symptoms of depression in general as well as postpartum depression in particular.

Pregnant women need plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids

For these reasons it is becoming clearer that one of the most important aspects of the diet of pregnant women should be an adequate supply of the Omega 3 fats. The Omega 3 fats pass from the mother to the baby in the breastmilk, and therefore help maintain levels of Omega 3 in the mother as well as the baby.

(And research is showing that as well as improving the mental development of the baby and infant, this will also help improve the visual development of children as DHA is an essential component of the retina in the eye.)

Does fish oil help memory and function?

There is a strong link between adequate supplies of Omega 3 and memory, Omega 3 and emotional disorders and Omega 3 and brain function.

And as the principal source of the Omega 3 fatty acids is fish, particularly oily fish, it would seem there is much truth in the old adage about fish being the best brain food. Science now understands a specific reason for this, namely that fish is the best source of DHA, and also EPA, (eicosapentaenoic acid), the secind most important of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Fish oil supplements, at least the good ones, provide an adequate supply of these essential brain nutrients.

Whilst eating seafood, according to current scientific thinking, may well have provided the link between the Neanderthals and the development of human beings, lack of seafood in the diet is now being attributed to a range of lifestyle diseases as well as mental conditions.

Eating fish made our brains work better, a lack of fish in our diet is now contributing to various forms of mental decline as well as other health problems.

The growth in sales of Omega 3 supplements has been nothing short of phenomenal, they are the fastest growing nutritional supplement in history. And it would seem that there are powerful reasons for this. Not only are there powerful health reasons generally, but it would seem that the most important organ that you have, namely your brain, feeds on Omega 3, and without enough won’t work so well.

The authors take Omega 3 supplements every day without fail. We consider them an essential component, if not the most important component, of good health. We suggest you consider doing the same.

And to read more about the study which inspired the 2 videos above, click here.

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Any natural anxiety remedy avoids the side effects of drugs, and this has to be good. Could Omega 3 do this?

Anxiety, like depression, is a condition characterised by its ability to seriously damage any sufferer’s enjoyment of life. Anxiety and depression can wreak havoc with your quality of life if you suffer from them.

And like depression there is a range of drugs which can be utilised to treat anxiety, however many have unwanted side-effects.

But are Omega 3 fatty acids a natural anxiety remedy? If so then the side-effects, if any, are so limited as to be pretty much non-existent.

And what evidence is there in support of any suggestion that using Omega 3 essential fatty acids as a natural treatment for anxiety has any effect?

In fact there is considerable evidence. There are a range of studies about the benefits of using Omega 3 for depression, as well as the role of Omega 3 in treating postpartum depression, many of which suggest that Omega 3 supplementation may have a significant role in treating depression.Natural remedy for anxiety

And there is also now new evidence about the specific benefits of using Omega 3 supplements as a natural remedy for anxiety.

A new study which has been published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity has demonstrated that increasing your intake of fish oil can help reduce the incidence of anxiety.

In the study a group of healthy students were given Omega 3 supplements, and another group were given a placebo. The students were interviewed during the study and blood samples were drawn, as well as a range of tests and surveys were administered to attempt to ascertain their levels of stress, depression and anxiety. The general diet of each student was also monitored.

The results were surprising, and the researchers discovered a notable reduction in anxiety among the students who received the Omega 3 supplements of around 20% compared to the students who were taking the placebo.

The researchers hypothesised that the reason for this result was that as Omega 3 essential fatty acids work effectively as anti-inflammatories they were able to reduce the production of cytokines in the body which actually produce inflammation. Links have been drawn between the production of cytokines in the body, inflammation and psychological stress and anxiety.

Stress and anxiety can be quite debilitating for many people, and there is evidence that stress and anxiety also increase susceptibility to a range of infectious diseases, and so they both carry their own health risks as well.

This study was undertaken on a group of healthy young people who were not showing significant signs of anxiety. The same result might not be achieved with people who were already suffering from anxiety, though this may well be worth studying.

Certainly, if it is true that Omega 3 fatty acids can be an effective natural remedy for anxiety, there should be significant further study undertaken to determine this. This study is a first step in the right direction.

Not only this but, if Omega 3 fatty acids can realistically be a part of an overall treatment strategy for anxiety this may well reduce reliance on other more drug oriented solutions, which is always a good thing.

To read more about this study click here.

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Can Omega 3 supplementation help postpartum depression or depression during pregnancy?

We’ll find out soon.

For some time there has been research suggesting that increasing the intake of the Omega 3 fatty acids may have a role in helping treat depressive illnesses in women who are either pregnant, or after pregnancy.

Postpartum depression, and depression during pregnancy, are far more common than you may think. Although it is not entirely clear, because many women do not report suffering from some form of depressive condition, it is estimated that anywhere up to 20% to 25% of women can suffer from some form of postpartum depressive symptoms after giving birth.

There is now significant evidence that increasing the intake of the Omega 3 fatty acids may have a positive effect on depression generally, and there is also evidence that increasing the intake of Omega 3 can also be a partial treatment for postpartum depression.

Not only that but there are other powerful reasons why women who are pregnant should be taking some form of Omega-3 supplementation, including because this can help improve the neurological development of the fetus, as well as reduce the chances of postnatal depression, according to the US director of the mother and child foundation, David Kyle.

A new study is now being undertaken to examine this exact question, of whether or not an increase in the Omega 3 essential fatty acids can have any preventive effect on major depressive illnesses in pregnant women, or after birth.Pregnancy and depression

In June of 2011 an abstract of the study was published indicating the study’s parameters.

The background to the study notes potential problems in the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, and in particular the concern about negative neurobehavioural outcomes in infants which may have been exposed to those antidepressants.

It also notes that as there is evidence of the beneficial use of Omega 3 fatty acids in depressive syndrome for non-pregnant people, that this may also extend to pregnant women.

It is also noted that observational studies in the psychiatric literature have suggested that a deficiency of DHA may well lead to the development of depressive disorders both during pregnancy and thereafter.

The study will recruit 126 pregnant women, of less than 20 weeks, from Michigan. Each of these women will be followed during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks thereafter.

There shall be 3 groups of women. One group shall take fish oil supplements high in EPA, with some DHA. The 2nd group shall take fish oil supplements high in DHA with some EPA and the 3rd group shall take a placebo.

These women shall be scored according to the Beck Depression Inventory at 6 weeks after birth.

The intention of the study is to examine the effectiveness of both DHA and EPA at preventing the onset of depressive symptoms among pregnant women, if any.

Depressive illnesses both during pregnancy and thereafter can have major impacts on the women who suffer from them. Not only can they have major impacts on the woman but they can also have very serious impacts on the infant that results from the pregnancy as well.

Many studies on the effectiveness of Omega 3 essential fatty acids at preventing or ameliorating various health conditions are extremely long. Many last for years or even tens of years. That will not be the case with this study, the outcome should be forthcoming relatively soon.

Once were aware of the outcome we shall bring it to you.

To find out more about Peter

Where have all the menhaden gone? Menhaden are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 supplements are normally manufactured using Omega 3 oils harvested from fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. That’s because different types of fish have different levels of Omega 3 fats, and there’s not much point in trying to extract those healthy Omega 3 fatty acids from fish which don’t have much.

However there is some concern that as the market for the Omega3 fats get bigger, in other words as more and more people begin to recognise the health benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acids, and therefore as more and more fish oil supplements are being manufactured, we are gradually killing off various species of fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

And it would seem that there is some validity to this concern.

There’s a company called Omega Protein. This company is involved in catching fish and turning them into high Omega 3 foods, many of these for feeding livestock, though they also produce Omega 3 supplements.
Killing the fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids
This company has a very specific source for the Omega 3 which it uses in it’s products. This source is a small fish called menhaden, which is, or at least was, quite prolific in the Atlantic Ocean. The menhaden is extremely oily, and this is the exact reason why Omega Protein like them. Because Omega 3 fatty acids are found in the oil of the fish, and so menhaden are high in the Omega 3 fats.

When North America was first colonised menhaden were extremely prolific. Massive schools of these fish, which grow up to a maximum of about 1 foot in length, used to ply the coast of America and used to fill some of the bays and estuaries of the east coast to overflowing.

And in fact these fish were so prolific that for most of the 20th century they made up the largest catch of fish in the US, and made up a large part of the fish diet of human beings there.

Menhaden are very useful to lots of things

But menhaden didn’t just provide food for people. They are also an essential link in the food chain for countless other species of fish in the Atlantic, being eaten by dozens of species of fish as well as various birds and mammals. Menhaden is one of the most important food sources for many inhabitants, both above and below the water, of the Atlantic.

They were also extremely important in helping maintain the health of the water as they eat many of the small pieces of debris such as algae.

Menhaden help clean up many of the algal blooms which appear off our coast from time to time.

We’ve caught lots of menhaden over the years

Menhaden have been harvested for a range of different reasons. Early in the 19th century they were caught to be turned into fertilisers for farms and they have also been caught to provide industrial oil. For some time that provided more oil than whales caught by whalers.

Even by the middle of the 20th century the population of menhaden was massive, and they were harvested in huge numbers. In 1956 1.6 billion pounds of fish were caught. But by the 1970s catches had fallen by 80 percent.

Omega Protein are now continuing the slaughter, and with 61 ships and 32 spotter planes these poor fish have nowhere left to hide. Gradually catches have been declining and at the start of this century the fish were getting extremely hard to find. Not only that butI’ll algal blooms, which the menhaden used to clean up, and which result from excess nitrogen run off from farms in many cases, are getting worse.

As a result many states have now banned the harvesting of menhaden and only 1, Virginia, still allows it. As a result Omega Protein catches the vast bulk of their menhaden in and around Chesapeake Bay. Evidence is that Chesapeake Bay is turning into an ecological disaster, and the dramatic declines in menhaden may well be contributing to that.

Whilst there is little doubt about the health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids there is also little doubt that the indiscriminate harvesting of fish for the purposes of filling Omega 3 capsules must be avoided. It is of no good to us or the fish if we eliminate various species of fish one by one in our quest for Omega 3 fats.

Fortunately the company that manufactures the Omega 3 supplements that are our preference harvests the Omega 3 from a very robust population of fish found in the southern ocean.

So there is one more thing for you to think about when you’re buying your Omega 3 supplements. Is the company that manufactures those supplements harvesting the Omega 3 sustainably?

Otherwise there may not be any fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids left in the ocean soon.

To find out more about the history of the menhaden fishery and the benefits of menhaden watch this video.



Click here to read more about the decline of the menhaden and the role of Omega Protein

To find out more about Peter
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